Human Powered Record Player

Low-tech Magazine’s bike generator powers a record player. No batteries are involved: a buck converter in the control panel keeps the voltage output constant at 12V. Power use is very low and pedaling is easy. Record: Jean-Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline.

Build your own bike generator.

We also published a video of our pedal powered video projector.

Human Powered Dot Matrix Printer

Human-powered dot-matrix printer. Direct power. No batteries are involved. Directly powering a dot-matrix printer is challenging, especially when printing longer documents. The power demand is variable and can increase suddenly for a short time. You must pedal very fast to anticipate these peaks. If you fail, the voltage drops, the communication between the printer and the laptops breaks down, and the machine prints the document all over again. Capacitors could solve this. A laser printer has a very high power use during startup and is incompatible with a bike generator (or a small-scale solar installation).

DIY manual for the bike generator:

History of office equipment:

Human Powered Electric Guitar

Musician Germán Canyelles uses Low-tech Magazine’s bike generator to power his electric guitar. The guitar amplifier and pedals are plugged into an inverter connected to the 12V circuit of the bike generator. No batteries are used. Recorded at Akasha Hub, Barcelona.

Solar Desalination Skylight

“You hand pump seawater or polluted water into a bowl. Throughout the day the energy from the sun heats up this water and, instead of evaporating into the atmosphere, it gets trapped in the top section. All the fresh water will then trickle down into this bottom basin and all the impurities of the salt and polluted water stay behind. You’re going to have a left-over salt brine which is going to be a waste resource, but instead of throwing it away, this salt brine goes into the series of seawater batteries around the perimeter that can light a LED strip during the night. At night you can turn on the light and you get an energy source through the salt batteries. And during the day, this is like a skylight, bringing natural light to the interiors.”

“The power of the sun is amazing, and I was trying to copy this hydrological cycle. It can kill 99% of dangerous pathogens, remove salt brine and reduce the need of having to boil your water. I am not necessarily reinventing the wheel; solar distillers have been around for a long time, but a lot of these systems are heavy, expensive to make and with very complicated designs. I wanted to think about one which could potentially be portable and simple to construct, made out of local materials and able to Achieve a higher yield of water.”

“This new design was exactly the same but at a large scale. We created a recipe book that is a step-by-step guide on how you can create this same design using bamboo and local work. It could be flat packed into a bag and deployed very simply and quickly and then attached to a bamboo structure which allows structural rigidity but also a community shaded spot, where you can produce around 18 liters of purified water everyday.”

Read more: Low-Tech Solutions for Complex Demands: An Interview with Architect Henry Glogau, ArchDaily. Image by Henry Glogau. Hat tip to Michael.

The Lamp of the Eskimo (1898)

Quoted from: Hough, Walter. The lamp of the Eskimo. US Government Printing Office, 1898.

Though the Eskimo live at a temperature of zero Fahrenheit, travelers have noticed their idiosyncrasy with regard to cold. The clothing is designedly left open at intervals around the waist and the bare skin exposed to the cold air. As a rule the Eskimo strip when in the house and sleep naked. Another indication of their feverishness is the consumption of great (quantities of ice-cold water. No explorer has failed to notice the Eskimo lamp, around which the whole domestic life of this people seems to focus. Far more remarkable than being the unique possessors of the lamp in the Western Hemisphere, the Eskimo presents the spectacle of a people depending for their very existence upon this household belonging. Indeed, it is a startling conclusion that the lamp has determined the occupancy of an otherwise uninhabitable region by the Eskimo, or, in other words, the distribution of a race. [Read more…]

A Letter from Germany

Hi Kris,

Unfortunately I couldn’t find your address, so my letter will reach you digitally. See PDF in the attachment.

Many greetings,


Thank you very much, Simon! Here’s my address for those who want to send letters (or comment on articles) by snail mail:

Kris De Decker / Low-tech Magazine, Apartado de correos 9, 08320 El Masnou, Barcelona, Spain.